Articles Posted in Visa Appointments

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In this blog post, we provide new insights recently shared by Charlie Oppenheim, the former Chief of Immigrant Visa Control and Reporting at the U.S. Department of State, who oversaw the monthly publication of the Visa Bulletin until his retirement in 2022.

In a recent Chatting with Charlie webinar, he provided his expertise regarding the future movement of the employment based and family preference categories on the Visa Bulletin.

The Dates for Filing for the employment based and family sponsored preference categories have remained the same since the publication of the October Visa Bulletin with no forward movement to be seen.

In the month of February, the Final Action Dates progressed only slightly as follows:

Employment-based

  • EB-2 Worldwide advanced by two weeks to November 15, 2022
  • EB-3 India advanced by one month to July 1, 2012
  • EB-3 all other countries advanced by one month to September 1, 2022 (except China)
  • EB-5 China (Unreserved) advanced by one week to December 15, 2015.

Family-sponsored

  • F2A all categories (except Mexico) advanced by more than 3 months to February 8, 2020
  • F2A Mexico advanced by more than 3 months to February 1, 2020

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The February 2024 Visa Bulletin was recently published by the Department of State.

While the Dates for Filing Chart remains unchanged from the previous month, the Final Action Dates Chart shows some modest advancements in some of the employment-based preference categories, specifically EB-1 worldwide continues to be current, EB-2 Worldwide will advance by two weeks to November 15, 2022, EB-3 Professional and Skilled Workers, India will advance by one month to July 1, 2012, and the rest of the world will advance by one month to September 1, 2022. EB-5 India will advance by one week to December 15, 2015, while the rest of the world will remain current.

For family-sponsored categories, the Final Action Dates for F2A Worldwide, F2A China, F2A India, and F2A Philippines will advance by more than 3 months to February 8, 2020, while F2A Mexico will advance to February 1, 2020. The February Dates for Filing remain the same as the previous month.

Whether you are applying for an immigrant visa at a U.S. Consulate overseas or applying for adjustment of status to permanent residence in the United States, you won’t want to miss these new updates.


Highlights of the February 2024 Visa Bulletin


Employment-based categories

  • The February Dates for Filing remain the same as January 2024

Final Action Dates

  • EB-1 India: The EB-1 India Final Action Date will remain at September 1, 2020.
  • EB-1 China: The EB-1 China Final Action Date will remain at July 1, 2022
  • EB-1 Worldwide: All other countries will remain current.
  • EB-2 India: The EB-2 Final Action Date for India will remain at March 1, 2012
  • EB-2 China: The EB-2 China Final Action Date will remain at January 1, 2020.
  • EB-2 Worldwide: Final Action Dates for the remaining countries in EB-2 will advance by two weeks, to November 15, 2022.
  • EB-3 Professional/Skilled Workers: The EB-3 Professional/Skilled Worker Final Action for China, will remain at September 1, 2020. India will advance by one month to July 1, 2012. Final Action Dates for the remaining countries in the category will advance by one month to September 1, 2022.

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The past year saw big victories for worldwide visa operations.

The Department of State recently provided statistics summarizing its visa processing capacity in the year 2023. The recent data shows tremendous advancement in visa processing capacity at Consular posts globally and provides a strong outlook for visa processing in the year 2024.

In the year 2023, the Department of State issued more nonimmigrant visas at U.S. Consular posts and Embassies worldwide than at any other time since 2015.

This included issuing a record of 10.4 million nonimmigrant visas globally, with more than 1 million nonimmigrant visas issued in a single month during March of 2023.

Some of the State Department’s accomplishments include:

  • The reunification of families, with the issuance of 563,000 immigrant visas (IVs) in FY 2023, with 30 of its missions issuing their largest number of immigrant visas ever.  Consular sections worldwide have reduced the overall immigrant visa interview scheduling backlog by nearly half, from nearly 532,000 in July 2021, to just over 275,500.
  • Prioritizing student and academic exchange visitor visa interviews to facilitate study at U.S. universities and colleges. Consular sections issued 830,000 student and exchange visitor visas in FY 2023, more than in any year since FY 2016.  More than 600,000 of those were for students pursuing an education in the United States, many of them from countries sending record numbers of students. Of these numbers, nearly 40,000 visas were issued to African students which set an all-time record.
  • Record numbers of visas were issued for seasonal agricultural and non-agricultural workers to facilitate the legal and orderly flow of labor. A record-breaking 442,000 visas were issued to H-2A and H-2B temporary workers in 2023, with nearly 90 percent of visas issued to workers from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. 
  • A record number of 365,000 nonimmigrant visas were issued to airline and shipping crewmembers (C1/D) which are essential to maintaining international transportation and supply chains that support the U.S. and global economies.

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In the nick of time, on December 21, 2023, the Department of State announced that it will continue its interview waiver policy for certain nonimmigrant visa applicants. The agency’s interview waiver policy was previously set to expire on December 31, 2023. However, its implementation will continue starting on January 1, 2024, and remain in place until further notice.

Following consultations with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Secretary of State has determined that the following categories of interview waivers are in the national interest.  Based on this directive, Consular Officers now have the authority and discretion to waive the in-person interview for:

  • First time H-2 visa applicants (temporary agricultural and non-agricultural workers); and
  • Other nonimmigrant visa applicants applying for any nonimmigrant visa classification who:
      • Were previously issued a nonimmigrant visa in any classification, unless the only prior issued visa was a B visa; and
      • Are applying within 48 months of their most recent nonimmigrant visa’s expiration date.

The Department of State reminds applicants who are renewing a nonimmigrant visa in the same classification within 48 months of the prior visa’s expiration date, that they will continue to be eligible for an interview waiver until further notice.

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The January 2024 Visa Bulletin is finally here, and with it some big advancements for the employment-based preference categories in the New Year, specifically for India and China, and some promising forward movement in the Final Action Dates for EB-2 Worldwide and EB-3 Professional/Skilled Workers Worldwide.

For family-sponsored categories, the New Year brings big advancements in the Final Action Dates for F2A Mexico, F2 Worldwide, F2B Mexico, F3 Mexico, F3 Worldwide, and modest advancements for F4. The Dates for Filing remain the same as December.

Whether you are applying for an immigrant visa at a U.S. Consulate overseas or applying for adjustment of status to permanent residence in the United States, you won’t want to miss these new updates.


Highlights of the January 2024 Visa Bulletin


Employment-based categories

  • EB-1 India: The EB-1 India Final Action Date will advance by three years and eight months, to September 1, 2020, and the Date for Filing will advance by a year and a half, to January 1, 2021.
  • EB-1 China: The EB-1 China Final Action Date will advance by four and a half months, to July 1, 2022, and the Date for Filing will advance five months, to January 1, 2023.
  • EB-2: The EB-2 Final Action Date for India will advance by two months, to March 1, 2012, and the EB-2 China Final Action Date will advance by approximately nine weeks, to January 1, 2020. Final Action Dates for the remaining countries in EB-2 will advance by three and a half months, to November 1, 2022.
  • EB-3 Professional/Skilled Workers: The EB-3 Professional/Skilled Worker Final Action Dates will advance by over 7 months for China, to September 1, 2020, and by one month for India, to June 1, 2012. Final Action Dates for the remaining countries in the category will advance by eight months, to August 1, 2022.

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The release of the December Visa Bulletin has brought few positive changes for immigrants in both the family sponsored and employment-based preference categories. In this blog post, we share with you everything you need to know regarding the movement (or lack thereof) of the categories for the month of December.

Whether you are applying for an immigrant visa at a U.S. Consulate overseas or applying for adjustment of status to permanent residence in the United States, you won’t want to miss these important updates.


Highlights of the December 2023 Visa Bulletin


Unfortunately, the December Visa Bulletin brings little to no changes across most employment-based categories and family-sponsored categories from the previous month of November. The Dates for Filing of all employment and family-sponsored categories remain unchanged from the previous month.

The Final Action Dates for family-sponsored categories also remain unchanged from the previous month.

With respect to the Final Action Dates for the employment categories, EB-2 China will advance by three weeks to October 22, 2019, and EB-3 China will advance to January 22, 2020. The Final Action Dates for the remaining employment-based categories remain unchanged from the previous month.

EB-4 Certain Religious Workers will become unavailable in the month of December.


Adjustment of Status Filing Chart December 2023


For the month of December 2023, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has confirmed that the Dates for Filing chart in the December 2023 Visa Bulletin will continue to be used in determining eligibility for I-485 adjustment of status filings (green card filings inside the US).

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The November Visa Bulletin has arrived! In this blog post we share with you the changes that you can expect to see in the visa bulletin for the upcoming month of November.

Whether you are applying for an immigrant visa at a U.S. Consulate overseas or applying for adjustment of status to permanent residence in the United States, you won’t want to miss these important updates.


Overview


What is the Visa Bulletin?


The Department of State releases the visa bulletin on a monthly basis, which summarizes the availability of immigrant visa numbers for that particular month in the employment and family preference categories. The purpose of the visa bulletin is to inform immigrants who are subject to the numerical quota system of when they are eligible to apply for an immigrant visa or adjustment of status application. Applicants can determine their place in line by looking at the priority date on their underlying immigrant petition. Applicants with a priority date that is “current” on the Visa Bulletin can move forward with the immigration process, because that means a visa number is available to them.


What are the preference categories that are subject to the numerical limitations?


The Family Sponsored Preference Categories and their annual limits are as follows:

First: (F1) Unmarried Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens:  23,400 plus any numbers not required for fourth preference.

Second: Spouses and Children, and Unmarried Sons and Daughters of Permanent Residents:  114,200, plus the number (if any) by which the worldwide family preference level exceeds 226,000, plus any unused first preference numbers:

  1. (F2A) Spouses and Children of Permanent Residents:  77% of the overall second preference limitation, of which 75% are exempt from the per-country limit;
  2. (F2B) Unmarried Sons and Daughters (21 years of age or older) of Permanent Residents:  23% of the overall second preference limitation.

Third: (F3) Married Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens:  23,400, plus any numbers not required by first and second preferences.

Fourth: (F4) Brothers and Sisters of Adult U.S. Citizens:  65,000, plus any numbers not required by first three preferences.

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Want to know what’s going on in the world of immigration? Then you won’t want to miss these brand-new updates from the U.S. Department of State.


Digital Visa Authorization – New Concept


The State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs has revealed that the agency is floating the idea of providing a digital visa authorization (DVA) for immigrant and nonimmigrant U.S. visa applicants applying at U.S. Embassies and Consulates overseas. The digital visa authorization (DVA) would replace the need for printing traditional U.S. visas inside foreign passports.

The agency will conduct an experimental pilot testing the digital visa concept at the U.S. Embassy in Dublin, Ireland, which will issue limited digital visa authorizations for a small number of K-1 (fiancé(e)) visas as they are single-entry (single use) visas. Such K-1 visas will only be issued to those who plan to travel directly to the United States from Dublin.

If the pilot is successful, the agency may extend digital visa authorizations to other visa classes and additional posts in the future.

The U.S. CBP Document Validation program will digitally notify airlines when a traveler has valid travel credentials, including a DVA.


Why is the pilot being tested in Dublin?


According to the State Department, “U.S. Embassy Dublin is an ideal location to conduct [the] initial DVA proof of concept thanks to our historically strong partnership with the Irish government, the ingenuity of the consular section at [the] embassy there, the presence of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) pre-clearance procedures at Dublin Airport, and the participation of airlines flying out of Dublin directly to the United States who are already enrolled in CBP’s Document Validation program.”

More information will be provided as the digital visa authorization program is being developed.

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The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently announced the reopening of an international field office in Havana, Cuba.

The Havana office will assist with U.S. immigration benefits and services, including conducting interviews, processing cases for pending Cuban Family Reunification Parole (CFRP) requests, and Form I-730, Refugee/Asylee Relative Petitions, and other limited appointment-only services such as collecting biometrics for U visa applications.

Services at the Havana Field Office will be available by appointment only.  USCIS has updated the USCIS International Immigration Offices page with more information about services and appointments available at the Havana Field Office.

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said that the decision to reopen the Havana Field Office was made to, “reduce unlawful entries, deny resources to ruthless smuggling organizations, and streamline access to lawful, safe, and orderly pathways for those seeking humanitarian relief.”

This move marks a restoration of American relations in Cuba. During the Trump administration, the Havana Field Office was closed, following the suspension of operations in 2017 after the U.S. Department of State ordered all non-essential personnel and families to depart Cuba.

On June 9, 2022, the Biden administration announced it would be resuming operations under the Cuban Family Reunification Parole (CFRP) program, to provide a safe, orderly pathway for certain Cuban beneficiaries of approved family-based immigrant petitions (Form I-130) to wait in the United States for their immigrant visas to become available.

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In this blog post, we share with you an important announcement from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Carrier Liaison Program.

The agency has announced that certain nationals participating in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), who have been physically present in Cuba, or who are dual nationals of Cuba and a country participating in the Visa Waiver Program, will be ineligible to gain admission to the United States using the Electronic System for Travel Authorization also known as ESTA.

According to CBP, beginning January 12, 2021, the Department of State designated Cuba as a State Sponsor of Terrorism, causing the above-mentioned individuals to become ineligible for travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program.

Later, on July 6th the Department of Homeland Security updated its Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) online application and mobile application to reflect these changes.


Why has this happened?


The Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015 (“the Act”) makes nationals of Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries who have been present in a country designated as a State Sponsor of Terrorism (SST), as well as those who are dual nationals of both a VWP country and a country designated as an State Sponsor of Terrorism at the time of applying for an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), ineligible for travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program.

Since Cuba has been named a State Sponsor of Terrorism, these restrictions will now be enforced against nationals participating in the VWP program who have been present in Cuba or are dual nations of Cuba and a VWP country.

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